Extracellular histones identified in crocodile blood inhibit in-vitro HIV-1 infection

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It has been reported that crocodile blood contains potent antibacterial and antiviral properties. However, its effects on HIV-1 infection remain unknown.


We obtained blood from saltwater crocodiles to examine whether serum or plasma could inhibit HIV-1 infection. We purified plasma fractions then used liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry to identify the inhibitory protein factor(s). We then analyzed the ability of recombinant proteins to recapitulate HIV-1 inhibition and determine their mechanism of action.


Crocodylus porosus plasma was tested for inhibition of Jurkat T-cell HIV-1 infection. Inhibitor(s) were purified by reverse-phase chromatography then identified by protein liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry. Anti-HIV-1 activity of purified plasma or recombinant proteins were measured by p24 enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and luciferase readouts, and mechanism of action was determined by measuring HIV-1 RNA, cDNA and transcription (using 1G5 cells).


Crocodile plasma contains potent inhibitors of HIV-1IIIB infection, which were identified as histones. Recombinant human histones H1 and H2A significantly reduced HIV-1JR-FL infection (IC50 of 0.79 and 0.45 μmol/l, respectively), whereas H4 enhanced JR-FL luciferase activity. The inhibitory effects of crocodile plasma, recombinant H1 or recombinant H2A on HIV-1 infection were during or post-viral transcription.


Circulating histones in crocodile blood, possibly released by neutrophil extracellular traps, are significant inhibitors of HIV-1 infection in-vitro. Extracellular recombinant histones have different effects on HIV-1 transcription and protein expression and are downregulated in HIV-1 patients. Circulating histones may be a novel resistance factor during HIV-1 infection, and peptide versions should be explored as future HIV-1 therapeutics that modulate viral transcription.

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